Hoos in Education #4: Erin Garratt
PROGRAMS & OPERATIONS ASSOCIATE | DC OFFICE OF THE STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION (OSSE)
B.A. IN SOCIOLOGY, 2011
Our Education & Youth Development CPE Kirstena talked with UVA alum Erin Garratt about her path to working in education and her advice for students considering EYD careers.
Erin has always had a passion for social impact and service, which she explored through some of her involvements at UVA, including service trips through Alternative Spring Break and serving as the Community Service Chair for Class Council. When Erin was graduating, she knew that she was passionate about helping people, but thought that her options for pursuing social impact careers were limited to serving Teach for America or the Peace Corps. Erin applied to join Teach for America and served as a fourth-grade teacher in Wilmington, Delaware after graduation. Erin enjoyed her time as a TFA teacher and loved the fourth graders that she worked with, felt burnt out and ready to try something new by the end of her service commitment.
After a few years of working in different education-related roles in DC, Erin started working for Chiefs for Change as a Policy and Research Associate in 2016. In this role, Erin traveled around the country helping different states to develop and implement compliance plans when the Every Student Succeeds Act was passed and created new regulations for public school systems. While this job was very demanding, Erin enjoyed the variety of constantly working on new projects and is glad to have gained so many different perspectives from working with educators and policymakers in several areas of the US.
Erin has worked in the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) since 2018. OSSE oversees public education and handles federal funding for the 60+ local education agencies (LEAs) within DC. Erin’s job involves a lot of variety, as she consults on projects for multiple departments within OSSE. The office includes 10 divisions that each specialize in a different area of education operations. One recent project that Erin consulted on was to evaluate the credentialing system that keeps track of the degrees of educators working in OSSE’s jurisdiction. Much like with her position at Chiefs for Change, Erin enjoys getting to be a jack of all trades and constantly work on different projects. Erin also expressed that while her current position provides her lots of variety in the work she does, working for a city government offers more work-life balance and more regular hours than when she was traveling a lot for work.
Erin wants students interested in education and youth development careers to know that there are many different paths to pursuing a career in education policy. Lots of people in the field have had a diverse array of professional experiences, including law, consulting, or MBA backgrounds, in addition to plenty of people with policy backgrounds. Additionally, Erin points out that roles in education extend far beyond teachers and principals. School districts need employees in HR, finance, and lots of other areas to keep operations running smoothly. Erin also sees a huge need for people with data experience in the education sector because data analytics are crucial for making good decisions within a school system. Finally, Erin pointed out that teaching experience is very valuable when approaching education policy, even though it is rare among policymakers. Erin described that it’s incredibly important to have humility in her field because there is no room for ego when you are trying to serve children and that her previous teaching experience helps to keep her focus grounded in the students and families that her work serves.
If you’re interested in learning more about Erin’s story and the work she does, you can connect with her through Virginia Alumni Mentoring!